Leni entitled to drug list as VP, says Lacson

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    BY RAYMOND AFRICA and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR

    DRUG czar or not, Vice President Leni Robredo is entitled to a copy of the confidential list of high-value drug targets of government, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, a former police chief, yesterday said.

    Lacson said Robredo’s elective position as the country’s second highest official is the best reason to furnish her a copy of the list.

    “What’s the problem with the VP having (a copy of the list) even if hindi siya na-appoint as co-chair ng ICAD (Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs)? Being the second highest official of the land, I think she’s entitled,” Lacson said.

    Lacson said Robredo, being the vice president, has a high security clearance since she is second in command in the government hierarchy.

    “Ang security clearance niya siguradong mataas, kami mataas. I think we’re good up to `Secret.’ Nakita kong security classification ng document, `Secret.’ (Her security clearance [as vice president] is high. We [senators] also have a high security clearance. I have seen documents which were classified as ‘secret’),” he added.

    Lacson said he cannot understand Malacañang’s fear that Robredo can use the list against President Duterte when the latter steps down from the presidency in 2022 since the list contains only the names of high-value persons involved in illegal drugs and not detailed information on the war on drugs.

    At the same time, Lacson said Robredo should have been given full authority to access information related to the war on drugs as she was named alter ego of the President.

    “Ang marching order, ‘you take my place. I give you all the authority I have.’ Hindi lang alter ego. ‘Yan ang unang offer noon. Parang short of saying ‘parang ako yan’ (The marching order was ‘you [Robredo] take my place, I give you all the authority I have.’ She is not only an alter ego. That was the offer then. That’s short of saying ‘she is like me’),” Lacson said.

    He said with the things Malacañang are saying and doing, Robredo is doomed to fail in the war on drugs.

    “Responsibility without commensurate authority, formula for failure yan. You will not succeed kasi binigyan ka ng malaking responsibility walang authority, paano mo reconcile ang gagawin mo? (Responsibility without commensurate authority is a formula for failure.

    You will not succeed because you were given a big responsibility without authority so how can you reconcile what you will do?)” he said.

    Lacson found nothing irregular with Robredo informing the public through the media what she has been doing since she was appointed anti-illegal drugs czar.

    Lacson suggested that Duterte and Robredo talk about the in-fighting since drug lords will surely take advantage of the situation as they see authorities losing their focus on the issue.

    “This is a big distraction. So pagka may ganyan sino ang nagbubunyi? E di ang drug lords na nag-aaway sila roon medyo hindi tayo napapansin ngayon. (This is a big distraction. So, if there are things that’s going on, who will benefit? Of course the drug lords because they will say ‘there are busy fighting among themselves that they will not notice our illegal activities),” he added.

    ‘NO CAUSE FOR WORRY’

    Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said Robredo should not be bothered with the President’s pronounced lack of trust on her regarding the handling of confidential matters.

    Panelo said Robredo’s job should be focused on ending the illegal drugs trade in the country and not on getting state secrets.

    Panelo reminded the Vice President that she was named as ICAD co-chair following her incessant criticisms on the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

    “Since she will not be given access to privileged communication, she should not be bothered by the expressed lack of trust by the appointing power with respect to the confidentiality of state matters requiring secrecy. After all, she is tasked to help end the illegal drug trade in the country and not to get secret information of the government to share the same with her foreign and local peers,” he said.

    He also said the Vice President has been given the rare chance to help in the drug war instead of just being a “rambunctious critic who cannot see anything good on the war on drugs initiated by this administration”.

    He said it is up to Robredo to show her competence and creativity and eventually earn the trust of the President.

    “Trust is earned. The missteps of the VP did not inspire confidence in the matter of keeping to oneself classified information. Her job in leading the agencies involved in the anti-illegal drug campaign requires competence and creativity. Trust comes into play only as regards the non-transmission of state secrets that imperils the safety of the Filipino people and the sovereignty of the country,” Panelo said.

    At the same time, Panelo advised former President Benigno Aquino III to just focus on his health and on cases filed against him before the Sandiganbayan instead of commenting on the illegal drugs situation and the government campaign.

    “Lest we forget, the drug problem ballooned in magnitude in his time, obviously due to his neglect in countering this evil that is putting this country into the precipice of a generational destruction. The Philippines has been plagued in the past with petty, divisive and parochial politicians. Fortunately, change has arrived with PRRD having the interest of the Filipino people foremost in his mind as we battle against the dreaded and destructive evil that is destroying the basic fabric of society,” he said.

    The President, during the 80th anniversary of the Department of National Defense on Wednesday night said he designated Robredo to co-manage the war against illegal drugs.

    Duterte said the position given to Robredo is legal and it gives her power to “give the direction, give orders to make the killings, especially if they brand it as extrajudicial, to take all the steps to do it, examine, then get the witnesses and all.”

    He said her task is to ensure transparency in the conduct of the anti-drug campaign.

    He reiterated his commitment to address the drug problem in the country, warning that if not properly handled, it would destroy the Philippines and the youth.

    PNP SUPPORTS ROBREDO

    Police officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa said the PNP sees Robredo as an ally in the war against drugs.

    Gamboa said the PNP, which is a member of the ICAD, supports Robredo despite the President’s criticisms.

    “Of course yes,” Gamboa told a press conference in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City when asked if the PNP believes Robredo’s capacity as a partner in the continuing campaign against illegal drugs.

    Gamboa said the police is not doubting the sincerity of Robredo to help end the drug problem in the country.

    “See for yourself. Not really (casting doubt). We support her. That’s it, we support her,” said Gamboa.

    He said the PNP was not present when the Department of Interior and Local Government briefed Robredo on Tuesday on the campaign on drugs because of the send-off of police personnel who are securing the 30th Southeast Asian Games in Pampanga. – With Victor Reyes